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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Just Received ... Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket!



Around this time last year, I was reviewing  Anyone But Ivy Pocket on this site. Yesterday, the sequel arrived. This time I seem to have the finished product instead of the proof copy, so the illustrations I missed last time are there!

I said at the time it rather reminded me of Judith Rossell's delightful Withering-By-Sea, so we will have to see how our favourite maid(but nobody else's)goes this time.

Here's the blurb from the Bloomsbury web site.

Ivy is now the beloved daughter of Ezra and Mother Snagbsy, coffin makers, even if she does have to work rather like a maid. Their trade is roaring, and Ivy is as happy as a pig in clover. Especially when she escapes to the library to talk to the devastatingly sympathetic Miss Carnage. 

But then Ivy guesses that all is not as it seems with her new parents, and discovers that she can pass into the world of the Clock Diamond. There, she sees her friend Rebecca, horribly sad and desperate. 

Can Ivy save Rebecca, and what do a missing aristocrat, a forbidden love affair and a bullfrog have to do with her mission?

Illustrated in humorous gothic detail by John Kelly, Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket is the second tale in Ivy's deadly comic journey to discover who she really is ... Perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket.

I'm looking forward to reading it!

Game Theory By Barry Jonsberg. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2026.


Jamie is a sixteen-year-old maths whiz. Summerlee, his older sister, is in the grip of a wild phase. Tensions at home run high.

When Summerlee wins a 7.5-million-dollar lottery, she cuts all ties with her family. But money can cause trouble - big trouble. And when Jamie's younger sister Phoebe is kidnapped for a ransom, the family faces a crisis almost too painful to bear.

Jamie thinks he can use game theory - the strategy of predicting an opponent's actions - to get Phoebe back. But can he outfox the kidnapper? Or is he putting his own and his sister's life at risk?


The fascinating thing about this novel is that, like many of Barry Jonsberg's other books, it has an ending you can't quite predict, a little twist that makes you say, "Oh!" It is one I love but can't share because of spoilers. I did suspect who the kidnapper was, then thought, "Well, it can't be, because..." but it was. But that isn't the twist I was thinking of. There is a delicious irony about it. 

Jamie is certain he can work out how to find his sister and her kidnapper through game theory; when his opponent seems to know as much about it as he does, he even rather enjoys the challenge, worried as he is for his beloved little sister. This is his major flaw and makes the book more interesting, even though the reader might, like me, be just a little disappointed that the book isn't actually about that. 

I would have liked a little more detail about the kidnapper before the long, detailed explanation at the end. Although I suspected who it was, the character traits that affected what the villain did were not so evident in the build up. 

Still, it's a good, exciting thriller that should suit boys from about fourteen up. 


Friday, May 27, 2016

Finally Reading... The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

  


Yet again there's a book which took me ages to get around to reading and now I'm whizzing my way through it. It's The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn, which was an Honour Book, ie runner-up in the CBCA Awards in 2014. I'm sad to say that doesn't necessarily mean that the kids are reading it. Not at my school, anyway. There are usually some overlaps between the CBCA and YABBA short lists. But only some. I think this one might have been on a YABBA short list, must check it out. 

The cover doesn't help; kids rarely pick up books with depressing grey covers. But what else can you expect from a dystopian novel about a nuclear winter? 

Imagine what it might be like to be going to school one day as normal, hearing about some nuclear missile test going on somewhere on the other side of the world and next morning waking up to dirty, almost certainly toxic, snow outside, power, communication and the Internet gone and being unable to even find out what's going on.

 It's all too frighteningly easy to imagine. 

The rest of it so far is about how people treat each other when canned and dried foods and bottled water are gradually running out and still no word of when, or if, this will end. There are decent people helping each other and others who simply go crazy. The hero, Fin, is one of the former, when his parents go missing and he's left with his younger brother to look after. 

I can see why it has been compared to John Marsden's Tomorrow series, except that at least Ellie and her friends had someone/something to fight. How can you fight nuclear winter?

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing how it all ends! 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Goodies From The Festival!

  
                               
 

Okay, I bought some print books! I also got a copy of Hazel Edwards's There's A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake, for my youngest family member, Jonah. I got one for his cousin Dezzy, when she was about his age, and had both signed. (Dezzy is sixteen and writing American Gothic-style fiction for English Extensions. How time flies!)

I didn't buy Anna Ciddor's book because I have it already, in ebook and in print. Mum is reading the print copy, so I didn't bring it for signing.

Anna and Hazel did a great session this morning, discussing writing books about "different" kids. Hazel said she had ended up having to self publish Hijabi Girl, which she wrote with a Muslim school librarian, who wears the hijab herself and wanted to see kids like her students in books. It was rejected forty-one times and even the festival bookseller didn't have it, though you can buy it online through Bookpod. I gather it has been doing well so far. I bought a copy and will be showing it to our literacy co-ordinator.

Anna said The Family With Two Front Doors was a risk, because it took a long time to write and lowered her writer profile, because, as I know well, if you don't have a new book out NOW you can be forgotten. But she felt it was the book she had to write, for herself, and in the end, Allen and Unwin bought it, after a lot of rejections in which she was told, "Oh, it's lovely, but we won't buy it because it has too limited an audience." Hah! It's only been out this year and it's already into reprint. I can't help thinking if it had been a Holocaust novel it would have been grabbed by the first publisher. But it was about the author's family and they did go through the Holocaust only a few years later, with only three of those delightful children left out of ten, and both parents gone; she wanted one happy moment for them, with the traditions and the food and the family affection. 



I had three sessions altogether. My next one was my friend Mirna Cicioni doing an interview by Skype with a lady who had translated a lot of stuff from Italian, including Primo Levi, and one English-speaking  author who had moved to Italy and started writing in Italian. One question was - why get someone else to translate your work when you could do it yourself? The reply was that the author "thought in Italian" while writing in that language and it would mess it up. But I bet she would be upset if she thought the translator hadn't done a good job. 

Another author mentioned was Elena Ferrante, which is a pen name. Apparently nobody has ever met her or seen her or knows her real name and she only does interviews by email. There is even a theory that "she" is a man, with some ideas of which male author it might be! Now, that sounds like a storyline for a movie! A romantic comedy, perhaps, where the reclusive author has a visit from a young journalist who believes the author is a man, but she isn't and has her own reasons for wanting to be left alone. Maybe she's a famous person who doesn't want anyone to know she's writing a certain kind of fiction? (As in that film Without A Clue, where Dr Watson is the real detective, but has to hire an actor to play Sherlock Holmes because he is after a job he won't get if the administration find out he's doing something so disreputable as solving crime). Anyway, there is a romance... Not that I think that of Elena Ferrante, whoever she/he is! 

I spent some time having a cup of tea in the sunshine before my final session. I'd picked up a copy of Arnold Zable's The Fighter. It doesn't read like a typical biography, but then, Arnold Zable doesn't write like that. Very readable so far! I hadn't realised that, at the age of sixty-seven, Henry Nissen is still working on the docks, because his social work just wasn't paying enough to live on. He's still on call, has his mobile with him, in case he is needed. He is a true working class hero - heck, a secular saint! 

I might review it when I'm done.

My final session for the day was a panel about Holocaust fiction, which I chose because Kate Forsyth was on it. Of course, she was there because of The Beast's Garden. She spoke of the fairytale background to it and how much research it had taken. When asked why Holocaust fiction, she said that some stories should not be allowed to be forgotten and that it was up to storytellers to make sure they weren't.



 One of the other speakers was an Israeli writer, Nir Baram, who was very polite and kind when someone in the audience asked a question about his new book with a very strange over-the-top interpretation of it. She must have seen his expression, because she said plaintively, "I was reading it at two in the morning!" But he was nice anyway. I'm not sure I want to read it, not my cup of tea, but it sounds like it might be a very popular book. It's his first to be translated into English. 

A very enjoyable day, in all! 


   

CBCA Shortlist 2016



Finally announced on Friday at the conference - wish I'd been able to go! Interestingly, they had it at the hotel where I attended my very first Sydney con.

Anyway, here's the list, which I pinched from children's book blog A Strong Belief In Wicker. Go on over and check it out - I think I'll be following it. 




I usually only buy the Older Reader books for my library and maybe the Younger Readers, as I work in a high school, and this year, alas, we only have two of the Older Reader books and one of the Youngers, Soon. Morris Gleitzman's books about Felix, the Jewish boy on the run from the Nazis, are very popular at my school, where none of the kids have ever even met anyone Jewish except their teacher librarian(me)! We had a student once whose surname was Cohen(hi, Dylan!) who told me he was "a little bit Jewish", but not in this generation. He was more closely related to Ned Kelly(true!). And yet, they ask for the next book in the series; when a Year 7 student saw we had After, she pounced on it saying, "Ooh, I was wanting this one! I read the others in primary school." I haven't read Soon yet; the kids have it. I will be buying the Deltora book; that series is well liked.

I've got Flywheel in ebook and am embarrassed to say I haven't read it yet. Ditto with the Eureka one. We do have a copy of that in the library, because it turned up in a display box and a student asked for it, but never read it. 

I've read only Cloudwish in that list. We do have the Vikki Wakefield book, but no - not read yet. Time to go shopping for the rest. 

I'm glad Cloudwish is on the list, but I'm sorry that In The Skin Of A Monster didn't make it. I think it deserves a spot on the shortlist. Still, it's nice that it made the Notables/longlist, and we were all thrilled that Rich And Rare got that far. It's a fabulous anthology, and not only because I have a story in it!


Book of the Year Older Readers Shortlist

The Flywheel - Erin Gough
The Pause - John Larkin
Freedom Ride - Sue Lawson
A Single Stone - Meg McKinlay
Inbetween Days - Vikki Wakefield
Cloudwish - Fiona Wood

The Book of the Year Younger Readers Shortlist

Soon - Morris Gleitzman
The Cleo Stories: A Friend and A Pet - Libby Gleeson, Freya Blackwood (illustrator)
Run, Pip, Run - J.C. Jones
Sister Heart - Sally Morgan (see my review)
Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars - Martine Murray (see my review)
Star of Deltora: Shadows of the Master - Emily Rodda

The Book of the Year Early Childhood Shortlist

Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas - Aaron Blabey
My Dog Bigsy - Alison Lester
Perfect - Danny Parker, Freya Blackwood (illustrator)
Ollie and the Wind - Ghosh Ronojoy
Mr Huff - Anna Walker
The Cow Tripped Over the Moon - Tony Wilson, Laura Wood (illustrator)

The Picture Book of the Year Shortlist

Perfect - Freya Blackwood (illustrator), Danny Parker (text)
Ride, Ricardo, Ride - Shane Devries (illustrator), Phil Cummings (text)
My Dead Bunny - James Foley (illustrator), Sigi Cohen (text)
Flight - Armin Greder (illustrator), Nadia Wheatley (text)
Suri's Wall - Matt Ottley (illustrator), Lucy Estela (text)
And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - Bruce Whatley (illustrator), Eric Bogle (text)


The Eve Pownall Award for Information Books Shortlist

Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect - Rohan Cleave, Coral Tulloch (illustrator)
The White Mouse: The Story of Nancy Wake - Peter Gouldthorpe
The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made - Fiona Katauskas
Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony - Stephanie Owen Reeder
Ancestry: Stories of Multicultural Anzacs - Robyn Siers, Carlie Walker (illustrator)
We are the Rebels: the Men and Women who made Eureka - Clare Wright

Crichton Award for New Illustrators Shortlist

The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade - Allison Colpoys (illustrator), Davina Bell (text)
The Cat With the Coloured Tail - Dinalie Dabarera (illustrator), Gillian Meares (text)
My Gallipoli - Robert Hannaford (illustrator), Ruth Starke (text)
Fish Jam - Kylie Howarth
Meet Weary Dunlop - Jeremy Lord (illustrator), Claire Saxby (text)

Time to get reading!






Friday, May 20, 2016

Going To The Melbourne Jewish Writers' Festival!

It's on tomorrow and Monday - I can't make it Monday, alas, as I'm at work, but there's some pretty good stuff happening and a line-up worthy of a mini Melbourne Writers' Festival. Here's the link if you're in Melbourne and have the time to go.

The speakers aren't all Jewish, but they write on Jewish or sort-of-Jewish themes. There's a rather interesting panel with Arnold Zable talking about his new book on Henry Nissen, boxer and social worker, with whom my sister went out once or twice in her teens. I hadn't planned to attend that one although we'll see if I can slot it in between the ones I am attending and lunch with my friend Mirna, who's doing a Skype interview with an American translator of Primo Levi. Mirna did her PhD on Levi. I'm going to that. I might buy the Zable book, anyway. I promise myself not to buy any more print books than I can help, but just the one...

But first thing, I'm going to hear Anna Ciddor, author of the delightful The Family With Two Front Doors in conversation with Hazel Edwards, co-author of the quirky and funny F2M, which isn't remotely Jewish, but is about "the other", the theme of the panel. The protagonist is a teenage girl who identifies as male and has to tell his/her all-girl rock band. It was as much about punk rock as about bring trans and was utterly delightful. And published by Ford Street, my favourite publisher! Only trouble is, poor Hazel kept getting asked to sign one of her Hippo books instead the day we were signing out Ford Street books.

My final panel for the day is "The H Word", about Holocaust writing, and one of the panel members is the amazing Kate Forsyth, whose recent book In The Beast's Garden is set in Nazi Germany and definitely has Holocaust themes. I know Kate through SF fandom, but In The Beast's Garden is a straight historical novel, though it is inspired by a Grimm's fairy tale, "The Singing, Springing Lark", a sort of Beauty And The Beast story which turns into "East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon" halfway through.

I've reviewed all three novels on this site, you can find them on a search.

Anyway, there's plenty of good stuff going tomorrow, and tonight there will be an opening ceremony at the Glen Eira Town Hall, with music. My brother's friend, the cellist Robert Ekselman, will be playing. Wish I could go, but I have other commitments today.

Why not check out the MJWF web site and go? It's mostly on at Beth Weizmann Hewish community centre in Caulfield and is easy to get to by tram, either the 64 from the city, or the 67. If you know me and are going, get in touch and I'll meet you there. If you're one of my overseas or interstate readers... Well, you'll just have to read about it. Buy some of the books.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Reviews Soon To Come...

I've just finished reading the latest book by Barry Jonsberg, a thriller called Game Theory, which I received on Saturday morning and finished last night - very readable, as are all of Jonsberg's books I've read so far. But the embargo date is May 25, so ... I'll write it and keep it in draft form till the time comes.





Meanwhile, I'm back to a book that has been on my TBR pile for far too long, The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, a YA novel set in Russia a hundred years ago, which has had a lot of raves about it on line as it just sat on my pile with only a few pages read. Maybe it will turn out to be one of those books I mentioned in a previous post, the kind you can't get into, then love. We'll see.

Stand by!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

On Reading ... Edgar Allan Poe



Edgar Allan Poe. Public Domain


I've read some in the past, just a little, but I tend to think of him mostly as the master of horror fiction, although I know he was also the author of some mysteries. My Year 11 niece Dezzy wants me to check out her story outline for English Extensions, in which she is focusing on American Gothic. English extensions seems to involve some creative writing in particular styles and then explaining the symbolism according to the symbolism found in the original fiction.  Hmm, I can already see her doing a Masters in Creative Writing, if she hadn't already said she wants to do Psychology...

Anyway, she explained that if you've read Edgar Allan Poe you should have some idea of American Gothic.

So I thought it was about time I did read some of his classic short fiction and downloaded a couple of volumes from Gutenberg. I'm about to read "The Murders In The Rue Morgue", which introduces his pre-Holmes detective C.Auguste Dupin.

But Edgar Allan Poe also wrote funny! Who knew? I didn't! Never too late to learn something new.

I've read three stories so far, including one about Scheherezade telling one more, truly weird Sinbad story after she's married... and annoying her husband enough to order her throttled after all - a very silly and over the top tale! I loved his comment that she must have read Machiavelli before undertaking her original scheme.

And "The Gold Bug" which contains a sort of McGuffin. I thought it might be horror fiction, but instead it was a cryptography story and the guy you first assume must be crazy isn't. The representation of the African American character as a clown was annoying, but you have to remember he was a Southerner, well and truly before the Civil War. I've long ago forgiven Shakespeare for Shylock, so what the heck.

And it was funny! I admit I did skip over some of the detailed cryptography but perhaps some time I'll have a play with the cipher.

Meanwhile, on to the Rue Morgue! 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Some Happy Birthdays For May 14!


Here are some famous May 14 birthdays. I did leave out the director Sofia Coppola because I'm not familiar with her films, though I've heard of her. Happy birthday, anyway, Sofia! 

1727 - Thomas Gainsborough - Portrait artist who painted the royal famiły and aristocrats. It was good stuff, though! His most famous piece was The Blue Boy. Apparently, it was a sort of "Nyah nyah!" to the advice of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who said that cold colours like blue should be mostly kept out of paintings. 


The Blue Boy - Public Domain.


1775 - J.M. W Turner - painter of the most gorgeous landscapes and seascapes in a swirly style that nobody much was doing back then.

Turner. Public Domain.


1944 - George Lucas - yay! Star Wars! If you haven't seen at least one of his films, you've been hiding under a rock! 

1952 - Robert Zemeckis - yay! Back To The Future! Marty McFly and his skateboard! Professor Brown with his wild hairstyle and popping eyes! The Delorean time machine! 

1965 - Eoin Colfer - author of the wonderful Artemis Fowl novels which were so very Irish. The hero starts off the series by kidnapping a fairy for ransom. She is a member of the elite LepRecon unit, more like James Bond than Galadriel and certainly not a sweet winged being fluttering among the flowers. I loved the dwarfs in this, who could eat their way through soil and stone and produce energy by farting. Hilariousl!

Happy birthday, guys!